- On November 16, 2020
Karen Myhaver – MassMEP Employee Highlights
Ask Karen Myhaver what her job is at MassMEP and she responds, “My business card says Manufacturing Your Career Coordinator. That’s what I’m focused on – doing outreach to educational facilities, students, career consultants, guidance counselors, and others involved with student careers. My focus is on educating them about manufacturing and manufacturing careers. I go to schools and make presentations, though I’ve been doing those virtually since COVID-19. I’ll tell you about the back story, how this all evolved. Barry Bluestone, a professor at Northeastern University, did a report called Staying Power. It summarized that if manufacturers weren’t careful, things would fall apart because they were facing a shortage of manufacturing employees. One example is machinists, and other positions involving people with lots of experience that would be retiring. Our society had decided that those jobs weren’t good jobs to send young people into, as they had the stigma of being old, dirty, not healthy and low paying. About that time MassMEP’s workforce team was forming. We were recognizing that we needed to educate young people about the opportunities found in manufacturing, about the areas they could go into using STEM skills where they could grow and become engineers, for example. I like to say that manufacturing is where STEM goes to work, it’s where you really put STEM to use. MassMEP knew we were not going to have clients to work with if the clients didn’t have a business, and that the manufacturers won’t stay in business if don’t have employees. We did some work with unemployed, H1b, and underemployed candidates initially and had great success placing them in manufacturing jobs. That’s how we began germinating seeds for the pipeline.”
Karen’s path to MassMEP is rooted in her artistic and creative beginnings. Art and creative pursuits are something she has been involved with since she was a little kid. “I always wanted to be an art teacher and so went to college to be educated as an early education art specialist. I was blessed that I was able to do some work with the teacher that inspired me – I was a student teacher for her class. Then Prop 2 ½ came along, which cut art and music. Those teaching me were losing their jobs, so thought I should rethink my career choice. As a side note, while I was in college I did part-time work for ThomasNet which was the Thomas Register. They published huge hardbound catalogs of manufacturers, suppliers, and resources and did spec ads. I actually hand drew ads for the salespeople. When I started at MassMEP I remember seeing those hardbound catalogs in the office because we used to use them.”
Karen continues, “I have picked apples, been a chambermaid, and lingerie buyer. At one point I saw an ad for the Falmouth Enterprise newspaper for advertising sales. I applied and then spent 18+ years working for a variety of publications, including the Worcester Business Journal and Worcester Magazine. The last place was the Auburn News where I was Sales and Ad Manager. In that capacity, I often had people approach me when they wanted free advertising. Enter Hilda Healy. She sure knows her stuff, and anytime you want a successful committee Hilda should be involved. Hilda was always asking for free ads for things that she was involved with. Then times changed and people started reading their news online, so the paper was closing up shop. I had a meeting with Hilda to say I couldn’t help her anymore because I didn’t have a job anymore. Hilda gave me a card and said, ‘This is my husband’s organization. I think you’d be a good fit.’ So I called MassMEP and got Kathie Mahoney. She thought there was a project I could be involved with as an independent contractor. In that first year, I was the guru of making telephone calls. Back then MassMEP had a management company that oversaw Massachusetts and 7 other centers: VT, CT, ME, NH, AZ, Sandia XXXX, and FL. I worked on gathering information from those states to establish a supply chain database. As that project was coming to a close I was still an independent contractor, so I found another job and gave notice at MassMEP. MassMEP said they wanted to hire me, so I passed on the other job, and had the privilege of working under the great Jack Healy for many years.”
“During my time at MassMEP I have worked as part of the admin team, and then as part of the workforce team. I helped do the NIST surveys, back when they were done by handwriting. In those days we also had to physically call the clients. I developed a process that I called an internal survey. I would call clients to find out what they thought of the training they just completed. This helped us to troubleshoot issues that arose and also led me to many success stories.
Karen really enjoys that her work is different every day. She likes working with different people and on different projects. She says, “I’m blessed with the opportunity to create new things that didn’t exist before, projects, and products. Being a people person, this is a difficult time – it is hard not to be with everyone, not to share the camaraderie, and to be separated. It feels like you’re missing a part of yourself.”
As our conversation concludes, Karen talks about her passions out of the office. “I’m sitting in a labor of love. This has been a 2-year project of adding on to our home. I have always loved being creative in any form, whether arts and crafts, home additions, you name it. I also love the outdoors and working in it, going tent camping, and plants and animals. As we speak, it is October, and I have a fish pond. It was very sad this summer that we lost our 12-year-old Koi that weighed over 40 pounds to a lightning strike. I didn’t know it at first, but fish grow to the size of the pond that they are put in. We ended up with some big fish! We started with goldfish, and they were little fish. But they grew too big to stay out in the pond during winter. So we have The Running of the Fish. We bring them in for the winter, and some are too big to fit in buckets, so we carry them like a football. We have about 60 fish, many of them 15-pound goldfish. We also have chickens, dogs, and cats. And my family – love them!”
How well do you know Karen? Two of these statements are true and one is not. Can you guess which one?
1) I scored highest in the nation on the Iowa Test.
2) I was named after a person that did toilet paper commercials.
3) I am a blue ribbon winner in candy making.